Bob Dylan has gone viral for his Nobel Prize acceptance lecture, but not for the reason he probably would have hoped. The famed songwriter has been accused of ripping off a chunk of it from SparkNotes, the test-prep website used mostly by students.
Boy Dylan was chosen as the recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature this past October. As per the rules, recipients have six months to deliver a speech; otherwise, they will be forced to forfeit their prize money. Bob submitted his speech just days before the cutoff, and it’s caused a lot of controversies since it was published online.
As a Literature recipient, Bob Dylan gave a lecture on three novels that had inspired him as a child. During the 27-minute lecture, Dylan pondered over All Quiet on the Western Front, The Odyssey, and Moby Dick. It was his thoughts on Moby Dick that has raised a few eyebrows, including Slate writer Andrea Pitzer.
After first reading an article by Ben Greenman, where she noticed that Bob had seemingly referenced a quote that didn’t appear in any version of the novel, Andrea Pitzer decided to do a little extra digging. Pitzer then took it upon herself to head to SparkNotes, where she realized that the line “Some men who receive injuries are led to God, others are led to bitterness” may not have appeared in the novel, but did appear on that site.
Andrea Pitzer then went one step further and compared more of the Moby Dick section of Bob Dylan’s with content from SparkNotes and found that several lines from Dylan’s speech seemed to have been adapted from the popular study hub.
And it was her article, “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan,” that first suggested that Bob Dylan’s thoughts weren’t entirely his own.
“Across the 78 sentences in the lecture that Dylan spends describing Moby-Dick, even a cursory inspection reveals that more than a dozen of them appear to closely resemble lines from the SparkNotes site,” wrote Andrea Pitzer. “And most of the key shared phrases in these passages (such as ‘Ahab’s lust for vengeance’ in the above lines) do not appear in the novel Moby-Dick at all.”
Andrea then went on to compare every instance of plagiarism that she found in the lecture, which can be viewed in the chart below.
As Pitzer and several other writers have noted, this isn’t all too surprising for Bob Dylan. The songwriter has a history of taking inspiration from other work and adapting it into his own, something that he hasn’t been too apologetic about in the past.
“Dylan remains so reliant on appropriation that tracing his sourcing has become a cottage industry,” Andrea wrote, later on. “For more than a decade, writer Scott Warmuth, an admiring Ahab in pursuit, has tracked Dylan lyrics and writings to an astonishing range of texts, from multiple sentences copied out of a New Orleans travel brochure to lifted phrases and imagery from former Black Flag frontman Henry Rollins.”
It would seem that history has simply repeated itself on again with Dylan’s lecture.
What do you think of Bob Dylan possibly plagiarizing his Nobel Prize acceptance speech? Do you think that he will suffer any repercussions for this? You can sound off in the comments section below.
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